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Dark Rose Valkyrie
Score: 81%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Compile Heart
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
I tend to love RPGs, so when I heard Dark Rose Valkyrie was coming out, I jumped on the chance to get it. Dark Rose Valkyrie is a turn-based RPG that tells the story of an Earth that is very different from ours.

The first thing that I was pleased about is that Dark Rose Valkyrie is in English, with subtitles as well. Even though their talking in battle isnít necessary to understand, itís still nice to be able to understand what theyíre saying. Granted, they donít really have a large selection of dialogue, but I can at least understand it. What I could have done without were some of the sound effects. Asahiís heavy breathing while moving around is really annoying. He grunts every few seconds and I could really have done without those sounds! Plus, heís continually saying "I should check our mission objective" when youíre exploring or "let me know if youíre not feeling well." Thereís not much variety in these statements and theyíre definitely not helpful. These things are really annoying long term and make exploration not nearly as much fun. The voicework during the cutscenes is well done though, so at least thatís not annoying too.

The world of Dark Rose Valkyrie is, predictably, dark and drab. Most things are blues, greys, blacks, or purples. Thereís not a lot of color. You find that youíre in a large city, with huge buildings, but you never see any people around. Even when you run around in the daytime, you have to kill Chimera from time to time, so when did they manage to build these things? Stuff like the abandoned shopping mall seems out of context. Given that the Chimera virus has been around since the late 1800ís, when would the mall have been built to now be in the destroyed shape that it is in? Thereís a lot of stuff that they added the visuals for, but didnít add the story to explain. Whatever reason, the visuals are pretty well done, if a little hard to navigate in places. The monsters are suitably deformed so that you can tell what it probably evolved from, but it definitely looks different now.

Dark Rose Valkyrie starts out with you (Asahi Shiramine) being questioned in an interview and I do not know if these affect the game overall or not. You will make a lot of choices in this game. Supposedly your answers will affect the gameplay, but I have not had the time to play through it again to verify the changes. Anyway, after the interview, you find out you were just dreaming those questions and you are going to be joining the National Chimera Defense HQ. Since youíre too late to get there by train, you decide to walk, which unfortunately leaves you running into a Chimera on the way. Chimera are mutated creatures. Ai Yakumo shows up and gives you a weapon so you can fight them. Itís a good little battle to get you into the game and get you used to the battle system. After battle, we find out that you are the new captain of the Special Force Valkyrie. Your team members are Naoyuki Kazami, Yue Hiiragi, Kengo Shinohara, Ai Yakumo, Luna Ichinomiya, Coo Franson, and Amal Franson. Theyíre all quite interesting. Kengo Shinohara does the laundry, but heís actually the heir of a really powerful family. Luna is also from another powerful family, but wants to be useful for something other than just her family name. Coo and Amal are twins, with very opposite personalities but they look out for each other.

Director Taiki Shinohara explains what is going on, just to recap for us. In 1818, the Black Garnet meteorite struck the planet, bringing with it a virus, the Chimera Virus. It infects humans and animals, turning them into monsters. Your job is to use new, experimental equipment to rid the land of the Chimera. As a note, men have a higher risk of getting the virus, so there are a lot more women fighting than men. Miyako Osatani is the Lieutenant Colonel. You will be getting your orders from her. Ichinomiya Military Base is your new home. Look for the (!) to know where you need to go next. Green ones are things that you can do and red ones you must do to progress the story. The Reference Room is where you go to get items and unlock things with medals that you earn on missions and you can accept these missions in the Command Room. You will also go back here to report when a mission is done, but it will not be complete until you report in. The Development Room lets you build new equipment with your items. You can do a lot here, including new costumes and accessories and there are a whole lot of ways you can customize things. You can spend hours playing with all the various options and figuring out what you want to do with each character, if you want. Personally, I stick with the defaults and level them up as I prefer the story to the weapons.

In Dark Rose Valkyrie, you will mainly divide your time between searching the field/ dungeons to complete your missions and talking to people in the base to further the story. You can accept multiple missions at once. Some missions must be completed to advance the story and some give you bonus items and such. There are some story objectives in the fields as well. You can search for lost items in dungeons and on the fields. Your detection level will determine if you can find certain things. Some items only appear in the day and some only at night, so search at various times. You have a map, but it fills out as you explore, so donít expect to be able to see where youíre going until youíve been there at least once.

You have AP and TP in battle. AP are for the arts. You will recover both automatically when you return to the base. TP are built up when you attack, are attacked, or beat an enemy. You can then use TP for support defense or to change your formation. You can carry 1/3rd of your TP to the next battle. Ignition can be called by using TP and it will give you more abilities for three turns. Itíll also give you special effects. Later on, you will unlock overdrive, which will use TP as well.

Dark Rose Valkyrie gives you the option of Easy, Hard, or Very Hard and you can switch between them at any time. Really, they should be called Super Easy, Normal, and Very Hard. When you switch it to Easy, you will get fewer rewards for your missions than Hard, which makes sense, but you will also get more points when you win battles. This means you will level up quickest on Easy. When you switch to Very Hard, you will get more rewards for your missions than on Hard, but you will get fewer points, so you wonít be able to level up quickly. This means that you really donít want to try hard until a second play-through. As a note, the monsters are so easy on Easy that I donít think you can die without trying hard. Even the bosses are a cakewalk. On Very Hard, normal battles feel like the Boss battles on Hard and you donít want to try a Boss battle, trust me!

Keep an eye on the moon as the phases of the moon bring out different enemies. The full and new moons will bring out rarer enemies. You are going to need to defeat specific enemies to fulfill missions, so you might have to go back to these missions at different times of the day or even different days. Try to get enemies into a guard break state before beating them. Doing so will earn special drops, which you will need! If you can get them into Break Over, you can unlock a second row sync attack. These are really powerful and can definitely save a battle. Once you unlock overdrive, youíll find it to be quite useful!

Uniforms are going to be your best way of defending yourself. Make sure to keep your uniform repaired! On a more amusing note, you will be able to see when your uniforms are getting damaged. At first they just have a few rips and tears, but if you donít repair them, eventually youíll be fighting in a bra and panties (or boxers for the gents).

Setting your characters on Auto for battle is quite interesting. Basically, you set it to auto and they do whatever they want. I guess if you just wanted to see what little story there is, you could set the game on Easy and every time you got to battle, choose Auto. I wonder how long that would take to run through a game like that.

Game Mechanics:
Since Dark Rose Valkyrie is a turn-based battle system, itís pretty easy to get the hang of the controls. You simply select your action. Itís not solely turn-based, though. You have to take into consideration that the actions take time. You can do levels of attacks, and the higher the level, the longer it will take. During that time, the enemy can still attack. Youíll also be able to have two characters attacking at once, if you manage to time things right. It wonít take you long though and youíll get into a groove of which characters work well together. You can switch the front row characters for the back row ones and it doesnít take a whole turn. This means that you can swap them out and the new character will get to take a turn pretty quickly. You can keep track of who is going when with the Tactical Wait Gauge on the left. When their icon gets to the Action Point, they can make a move. Enemies also have an action gauge. There is a number on the enemy icon and this tells how many turns they will get. Obviously, higher numbers have more turns, so they will be much tougher. You can tell by the color ring around the number what type of action they are going to do. This knowledge can be very helpful!

You can increase the speed of your movement on the gauge with (R1). This is mainly recommended for when all your characters are in a wait state, since it increases the time for everyone equally, Chimeras included. You can press (X) at the home base to jump between areas and (L1) and (R1) let you switch between the floors. In the field, (LS) moves your character and (RS) moves the camera, while (L2) and (R2) zoom. (Square) lets you attack Chimera in the field before battle. If you pull it off, you will do an Assault Attack. Youíll have to find the best method to do this for you. If the enemy gets to you first, it will be a Danger encounter. You canít just run behind them and press (Square). If they turn around, which they do a lot, youíll end up in a Danger encounter, even though you see them and swung at them first. I donít like how the game treats encounters. When you run across a (?) on the screen, you can use (X) to search and find hidden items. A purple line means that is the entrance to a dungeon. Press (X) to go into it. Diamonds on the screen are Restart Points. You can warp between restart points or travel back to base from there.

You can easily go to wherever your missions are after you accept them using the total area map. Just press (O) in the base and choose where you want to go. The places with missions will have a little sword in blue beside them. Once you get there, the monsters that qualify for your mission (if it requires monsters) will be a blue dot on the map. This shortcut system makes your life easier.

Overall, my feelings are mixed on Dark Rose Valkyrie. I like the battle system and the world that the game is set in. All of the weapon and character customizations are really neat, but not something that I prefer to spend hours using. Luckily, you donít really have to as a few minutes will get you decent characters. The game is lacking in the story though. You have to play way too long to get just a few minutes of storyline. The missions arenít bad, but they really donít give you any new details. For my personal tastes, I really wanted more meat on the story to flesh things out. Long story short, if you love playing with customizing things and getting detailed on weapons, you will love Dark Rose Valkyrie

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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